Superman & Lois Review: “Pilot”

The Arrowverse versions of Superman and Lois Lane finally land their own show, though the universe has experienced some tweaks, both post- and since-Crisis. Some years have passed, and the death of Clark’s mother (what’s her name again?) brings changes to the Kents’ life. Family drama back on the ol’ homestead, however, does not mean that supervillains will rest.

Title: “Pilot”

Directed by Lee Toland Krieger
Written by Todd Helbing, Greg Berlanti,Todd Helbing et al.

Cast
Tyler Hoechlin as Clark Kent / Superman
Elizabeth Tulloch as Lois Lane
Jordan Elsass as Jonathan Kent (Junior)
Alex Garfin as Jordan Kent
Erik Valdez as Kyle Cushing
Inde Navarrette as Sarah Cushing
Dylan Walsh as General Sam Lane
Emmanuelle Chriqui as Lana Lang Cushing
Michele Scarabelli as Martha Kent
Fred Henderson as Jonathan Kent (Senior)
Katrina Kwan as Scientist
Fritzy-Klevans Destine as Sean Smith
Wern Lee as Tag Harris
Zane Clifford as Timmy Ryan
Joselyn Picard as Sophie Cushing
Paul Jarrett as Perry White
Dylan Kingwell as Teenage Clark
Chy Liu as Dr. Frye
Brady Droulis as Seven-Year-Old Jonathan Kent
Dawson Littman as Seven-Year-Old Jordan Kent
Lennix James as Four-Year -Old Clark
Wolé Parks as The Stranger

Premise:

Lois and Clark, struggling with two high school frosh sons, the death of Martha Kent, and a less-than-friendly takeover of Daily Planet, make some changes to their life. Smallville, however, has some real-world small-town problems, and the DCU’s supervillains won’t let Superman take a break.

Morgan Edge and General Lane have been reimagined, but we can explain that by the events of Crisis. We receive hints that we may see changes to Lex Luthor. Have things developed in the decade+ since we last saw him? Are we being misled? Is an alternate universe involved? Or is it just DC, and we shouldn’t worry about continuity, especially in what seems very much a stand-alone series?

High Points:

The pilot opens with a recap of Superman’s story, and it sets much of the tone for who he is in this version of the DCU1, and who he has been for most of his history. We get his first appearance, in the retro outfit and with a recreation of Action #1’s iconic cover, and several nods to past incarnations that don’t feel laboured. Someone who didn’t know them would understand their role in establishing the character for this story. Easter Eggs abound, (“Call Siegal and Shuster” appears scribbled on a reminder board by a phone2), but they’re used wisely and unobtrusively.

We then start to see the cracks appearing in the world. The Daily Planet has been experiencing the Clickbait era’s assault on journalism. Smallville remains a nice place, but it has experienced the problems of recent years, from farm foreclosures to an exploding small-town meth lab.

Throughout, the show makes an admirable attempt to balance the superheroics with the (sometimes strained) drama.

Low Points:

I recognize that the relationship between parents and sons will dominate this series, and hanging that aspect on the boys learning their father’s true identity makes good dramatic sense. I’ll give Mr. Truth and Justice a pass for deceiving his kids for so long, but it seems odd that he and Lois could maintain the deception for so long. That plot would make more sense if the boys were a little younger.

Jonathan and Jordan themselves are well-acted, but they would make more sense as fourteen-year-olds if the actors were, you know, fourteen. At least both are still technically teens. But Jon, in particular, is going to look like his dad’s younger brother by the time he graduates.

The Scores:

Originality: 2/6 It’s a fresh take on Superman but a take on Superman can only be so fresh and maintain the integrity of the character. I’m intrigued by the ambiguous handling of Lana’s husband and the eldest daughter. Both look like they’re being developed as complex characters. I don’t especially like Kyle, but I feel like I will understand him, and he clearly has some admirable traits.

Effects: 5/6 As with most Arrowverse shows, the effects are decent, but certain action shots look like videogame excerpts.

Kal does boast an impressive CGI cape in some shots.

Acting: 5/6 I love how Sarah fails to mention her boyfriend who is at the party to the new boy she obviously likes, and then seems surprised when the situation goes south. I have no trouble believing that a teen might do that.

Production: 6/6

Story: 4/6 The story is fine. The twists were a bit predictable, and it seems very odd that people wouldn’t look more carefully into the accident in the barn.

Emotional Response: 5/6 Pilot episodes receive special consideration.

Overall: 5/6 When they first introduced Hoechlin’s Superman on Supergirl, I hoped for a series, a Superman free of Murderverse shenanigans. This isn’t quite what I imagined, but it’s interesting, and we’ll be following it for the next few episodes at least.

In total, “Superman and Lois: Pilot” receives 32/42

Note

1. Clark/Kal has permanent five+ o’clock shadow. I kept hearing the Smallville theme, reimagined as “Somebody shave me….”

2. I have a feeling this note board was found buried and overlooked in the DC office sometime in the late 1970s. I can hear some exec saying, “hey, so maybe we should get on this…”

Inappropriate Lingering Question

Does anyone think there will be a Chloe Sullivan in this version of Smallville?

3 replies on “Superman & Lois Review: “Pilot””

  1. lost says:

    The episode was promising. It will take another couple episodes to settle, as usual for a new show, after which I’ll have a more solid opinion. I do like that they seem to be taking a character centric approach to the series, but we’ll see how well that works out as the episodes pass.

    On the one low point about being able to maintain the secret for so long, I’m not sure that’s as far fetched as one might think. Sure, it definitely would work better with younger boys. That’s true. But, I mean, Clark’s cover persona is so different from Superman, and then there are those “somebody else’s problem”/”perception filter” glasses (must be since it’s the thinnest disguise ever), and also the prevalence of less than good parenting in the world, it might be more plausible to the boys than one might expect. Add in how self-absorbed many teenagers are (I know I was at that age) and who knows?

  2. JD DeLuzio says:

    Update: According to an article at Screenrant, the Stranger is Lex Luthor, but he’s not the Arrowverse Earth’s Lex Luthor.

  3. The Superman aspect of the show was enjoyable.

    The CW aspect of the show was understandable, but not enjoyable, and may end up being a reason I don’t end up following the show.

    Still, it’s a pilot, and I am still watching ALL the other Arrowverse stuff, so if I do drop it, it’ll probably take a good chunk of the other shows with it.

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